What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affects the way a person processes and experiences their environment. This includes a wide range of differences in how people think, feel, and communicate with the world around them.
Autistic people can find it difficult to read and reciprocate social signals such as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact. As a result, they may find it effortful to communicate and interact with others.
Although autistic people often have difficulty socially, many have above average intelligence. They may excel in fields such as science, arts, literature, maths, music, and computer programming, or other fields that require attention to detail and a methodical mindset.
Not being able to talk, use your hands, use facial expressions or gestures, and you had not been taught sign language.
You had just landed on another planet and you did not know the inhabitants, their language, and customs, how they interacted, or how you should behave in their presence.
Hearing 10 TVs all at once and not being able to ‘tune in’ to any of them.
Trying to find your way in a crowd, in a foreign country with only jumbled signposts to follow, and directions which you can only partially understand.
For autistic people, ordinary situations can feel just like this.
Autism tends to become apparent during the second year of a child’s life, and doctors can often make a diagnosis by age 2. In more extreme cases, symptoms may be recognisable earlier in life, while people with relatively subtle observable symptoms may not be diagnosed until adolescence or adulthood.
When someone has a diagnosis of autism, we can sometimes lose sight of the positives, and we focus on the struggles too much. The child goes through evaluations and assessments to show deficits and sometimes we focus so much on what they can’t do that we forget what they CAN do!
Autistic people can, and often do, excel in so many areas of their life by:
- Focusing on the positives in their life
- Identifying their strengths and skills
- Pursuing careers and activities that are based around their unique strengths
Understanding, support, and encouragement should be provided to guide our loved ones with autism to celebrate their unique abilities.